Medieval Inventors And Inventions


The Middle Ages brought forth many inventions.  Most inventions, however, were actually invented by workers/smiths as opposed to scientists.  Millers invented waterwheels and wind mills to use for energy.  Inventions such as the water pump and the wheel barrel also came about in the Middle Ages.  In the 13th century glass workers ground lenses to make spectacles.  True clocks were invented during the Middle Ages (before that people used sundials which relied on the sun).  Sometime during the 14th century springs and gears were used to control hands of clocks, making clocks a great invention of the time.  Eventually every town in Europe had a clock in the market square.

In 1456 Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press.  Before the printing press, books were written by hand, usually by monks.  This took enormous amounts of time and money.  Very few people at the time could read because the price of books were so high.  Once the printing press came around, however, the rate of book making went up and the cost went down.  The first book to be printed was a bible.  This cut a load of work off of the scribes in the monasteries that previously had to hand write books.  It also forced literacy to be come more of a necessity in society.  Scientists were also appreciative of the printing press.  It allowed the scientists to more easily make copies of their studies and send them to other scientists.

The Middle Ages were a great time for the evolution of weapons.  The invention of the lance and the saddle improved cavalries.  This led to the growth of heavier armor, the breeding of larger horses, and the construction of better castles.  The earlier Chinese invention of gunpowder was expanded to manufacture guns (muskets), cannons, and mortars.  These things reduced the need for close combat and shields.

The agricultural world also had its contributions to the list of medieval inventions.  Heavier plows with wheels, horizontal plowshares, and a moldboard were invented, which cut down on manual labor.  Three-field crop rotation was invented, moving many farmers to drop the idea of small, individual farming plots and take in the idea of communal patterns of open-field agriculture (social and political evolution aided these changes as well).  During the 13th and 14th century, with advances in agricultural evolution, the invention of the spinning wheel came.  The spinning wheel improved the production of yarn, cotton, and thread used for cloth.

The means of transportation also improved during the medieval times.  The invention of the horse shoe, the whiffletree, and the spring carriage made travel easier.  Goods were more easily transported, which aided the growth of industry.  The invention of the deep keel (the triangular lateen sail) made maneuverability of ships easier.  The magnetic compass also made sea travel faster and more efficient.  This technology was so advanced for the time that Prince Henry of Portugal established a school to teach navigators how to use all the new machinery.  The invention of weight-driven clocks also aided the progression of sea transportation.

Galileo Galilei’s studies in physics, math, and astronomy brought new thoughts to the science world.  Galileo invented a calculating “compass” to be used for solving mathematical problems.  In 1906 Galileo heard that the spyglass had been invented in Holland.  After he heard this news he made a telescope to the doge of Venice.  After that he built a telescope that had a 20x magnification.  He used his new invention to discover mountains and craters on the surface of the moon.  He also used his telescope to discover the four largest satellites of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, and sunspots on the sun.

The medieval time period played a large role in social evolution.  Without the inventions and discoveries of the Middle Ages, today’s technology would not be nearly as advanced as it is.  Science would still be based on the Church’s ideas and ideals, travel and transportation would be slower, agriculture would be harder, architecture wouldn’t be as diverse as it has been throughout time.  Even the simple invention of linen undergarments allowed people to design more comfortable and suiting clothes and fabric.


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